If you are looking at a particular sermon and it is removed it is because it has been updated.

For example Year C 2010 is being replaced week by week with Year C 2013, and so on.

Friday, 23 February 2018

2nd Sunday of Lent Year B 2018

          2nd. Sunday of Lent (B)                      (Gen. 22: 1-2, 9-13, 15-18; Romans 8:31-34; Mark 9:2-10)

Our Blessed Lord’s Passion and Death was looming on the horizon and He had already seriously forewarned His disciples of it; but, as in so many other matters, they were not yet able to truly understand and fully appreciate His words.  When the time would come for Him to be taken away from them, Jesus realized that it would be a traumatic and potentially faith-shattering experience for them, His great concern was, therefore, that they should be so prepared that they might be able to endure the grief of losing Him and even draw spiritual profit from His own steadfast confidence in His Father and love for them throughout His Passion.  He could not spare them that trial, but He would not have them agonize themselves and lose faith in Him because of it.

How then did Jesus go about this preparation of His disciples?  Considering His later Agony in the Garden, there can be no doubt that He prayed most fervently to His heavenly Father about it.   Let us try to learn something of the efficacy of that prayer.

The bond between her Son here on earth and His heavenly Father was something that the Blessed Virgin Mary could not fully appreciate, something that once caused her to exclaim: ‘Son, why have You done this to Your father and I?’  On that occasion, instead of returning home from Jerusalem with the caravan, Jesus, after having become ‘officially’ a young man-before-God-and-for-God according to the Law, had remained there in the Temple at Jerusalem.

After three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions (Luke 2:46).

Jesus was delighting in His heavenly Father, as He spoke about Him with the doctors and teachers in the Temple.

Years later, as a fully-grown man He went to search out John the Baptist ‘at God’s work’ so to speak; this was at His Father’s secret calling as is confirmed by His Father’s voice from heaven, for He the Father alone knew when and how He wanted His Son to begin His public ministry.

And now here, the Father, in answer to Jesus’ supplication, had plans to comfort and confirm His Son by sending Moses and Elijah – representing the whole of God’s dispensation for the sanctification of Israel through the Law and the Prophets – to emphasize for Jesus that His coming Passion, Death, and Resurrection would be the culmination and fulfilment of all Israel’s hopes and of all His, God’s, salvation plans for His Chosen People and through them, subsequently, for the whole of mankind.  Moreover, Jesus’ chosen Apostles there on the Mount with Him would see and be brought to experience this glorification of their Lord as the fulfilment of Israel’s Law and Prophets, before God Himself would speak Personally from a heavenly Cloud giving testimony to His beloved and supremely obedient Son. 

That those plans and intentions of God were fulfilled is shown subsequently by Jesus own words and those also of His disciples labouring in His nascent Church:

Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, (the risen Jesus) interpreted to them (two of His followers going to Emmaus) what referred to Him in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:27).

(Peter said): “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43)

Jesus, most certainly, did not lead His three disciples up the mountain to display Himself; He simply knew, as Man, that He needed to pray; He also knew He had little time to prepare even those three chosen disciples for what was soon to happen, which is why He took them with Him that they might be near Him – as later in the Garden of Gethsemane -- when He was praying for guidance and grace.

The wondrous answer to and fulfilment of Jesus’ prayer on that mountain top, was His Father’s own manifest appreciation of Jesus’ longing to Personally give glory to His most Holy Name (John 18:11):

Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?  

and also, through His disciples’ future vocational work as leaders in His Church for the Nations, to offer all mankind salvation in and through the proclamation of His Gospel and the bestowal of His Gift of the most Holy Spirit.

Jesus was aware that His disciples were, at present, rejoicing in the presence of their Lord: He was the Bridegroom and they were the Bridegroom’s most privileged friends.  However, such present, earthly, joy, though holy, would not be enough to sustain them through the trials that lay ahead of them.  And that, People of God, is something we should notice. Joy in the Lord based largely on emotional experiences would, most certainly, not be enough for Jesus‘ disciples, nor can it suffice for us: their joy, their love, had to be firmly established, as must ours also, on Faith, shot-through and made incandescent, with Hope.  Therefore:

Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. 

Now, however, as the three disciples looked:

A cloud came, casting a shadow over them; and from the cloud came a voice, "This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him!"

These words from heaven were given to root the disciples’ joy-in-the-Lord to the faith, proclaimed, by Moses and the Prophets, which had sustained Israel over many centuries.  For, throughout Israel’s wanderings in the desert, the presence of God’s glory among them in the Tent of Meeting had been manifested by a cloud descending upon the Tent.  That same cloud had also covered Mount Sinai when the Law was being given to Moses; and now it was covering the disciples here on the mountain of Transfiguration, and from it a voice was telling them to listen to the law of Jesus.  The disciples could have no doubt about the voice speaking to them from the cloud: “This is My beloved Son.  Listen to Him!”  It was indeed the voice of the God of Israel, the Father of Jesus their Lord and Master.

The disciples were sharing a vision of heavenly glory and they wanted to remain there, basking, as it were, in the glory of Jesus: 
Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here!  Let us make three tents: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

That was not to be.  For the present they had already been given what was necessary: a vision of faith in the heavenly glory of Jesus, and a hope that would inspire and sustain them in an insatiable longing to share with Him in His glory.  Now, to finally galvanize them to put on this new armour of salvation and prepare themselves for the great trauma that lay ahead they were given a command: “Listen to Him.”

Long ago, as the disciples knew full well, Moses had spoken of a prophet like himself whom the Lord God would give to His people (Deuteronomy 18:15):

A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen.

Those very words “Listen to Him” were now ringing in their ears!

Now, the disciples were ready indeed to descend from the top of the mountain; for their faith -- rooted in the faith that had sustained and guided their fathers for over two millennia -- had been transfigured into the Christian faith, and they had been strengthened with hope which no earthly trials could ever take away from them: for now they had a vision of Jesus’ heavenly glory, though hidden as yet from earthly eyes; now, they had an eschatological hope to look forward to; now, they had a divine revelation and commission to hold on to. From now on they would be guided and sustained in all their difficulties by a sure and undoubting confidence in the goodness of God, unflinching faith and trust in Jesus’ Person and commands, and unshakable hope in the power of His guiding, ever-present, Spirit of Love and Truth.

People of God, see and learn how to protect yourselves against the snares of the devil and of the world: delight in the heavenly Jesus more and more, for we are not mere moralists -- be they scholarly ethicists or ordinary/professional ‘do-gooders’ -- we are lovers and proclaimers of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour who trust in the traditional teaching of His Church and never give up hoping that the goodness of God will lead us -- if we persevere faithfully along the way of the Cross -- to share in the eternal glory of Jesus before the Father.

Trust the faith.  Trust God’s words as did Abraham our father in faith, who, as you heard, was tested by God saying to him:

Take now your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah.  There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.

How fearsome and dread did those words sound at first!  How wonderfully, how beautifully, did they echo when the Lord gave the boy back to his father, resolving to become Himself the Only One Who would offer His only-begotten Son for mankind’s salvation.   How wonderful are the blessings won for us by Abraham’s obedience and trust, he was and is most truly our Father in Faith!

Trust the Faith wholeheartedly and thus enable yourselves to delight freely and fully, and yet more wholeheartedly, in Jesus, for, as St. Paul explains: 

Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.      (Romans 8:38-39)
Again I repeat: trust the faith, delight in Jesus, and thank God for His unfailing goodness.   In that way you will be armed both to resist and to overcome all that the devil and the world can try to do against you: 

For the joy of the LORD is your strength.  (Nehemiah 8:10)     

Friday, 16 February 2018

First Sunday of Lent

                    First Sunday of Lent (B)                               (Genesis 9:8-15; 1st. Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15)

In the course of history God made four covenants with men: the first was set up through Noah for all time and for the whole of mankind and indeed for every living animal; then there were three temporal covenants for the good of His Chosen People made through Abraham, Moses, and David; and finally, a fifth covenant for the eternal salvation of all mankind, established in and through His Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ.
You heard of the covenant with Noah in the first reading:
I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.
That was and still is an enduring covenant: never again will waters become a flood to destroy sinful life on earth.  Notice the connection between water and life in this the first covenant.
The terms of God’s covenant with Abraham were:
Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you.  I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. (Genesis 12:1-2)
And so, the second covenant set up a pilgrim people, a people called to set out on a journey towards the unknown, following God’s guidance in complete trust.   It was a covenant of faith.
You well remember the covenant with Moses:
Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar.  Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. They said, "All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient."   And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, "This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words."  (Exodus 24:6-8)
This third covenant required God’s Chosen People to live in accordance with the Law given by God through Moses: it was, consequently, a covenant of obedience.
The fourth was that God made with David and his house:
When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before Me. Your throne shall be established forever.  (2 Samuel 7:12,16.)
In this covenant we have the promise of a Messiah, a Saviour of kingly line, whose kingdom will endure for ever; this fourth covenant was a covenant of hope.
Finally, we have the fifth and eternal covenant which Jesus entered into on our behalf:
He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22:20)
A covenant of love, divine love calling for mankind’s return of love.
People of God, we must clearly recognise the wonderful wisdom of our God, for this fifth covenant includes all that had gone before.  Here water, used in the original and still enduring covenant with Noah, is now sacramentally associated with life again: no longer is it to serve as a flood to destroy the life of sinful humanity, but now water under the power God’s word mediates the gift of new, sacramental, baptismal life of the spirit for all who believe in Jesus.  Again, as with all true descendants of Abraham our father in faith, Jesus’ redeemed people are a people of faith, this time, however, of supernatural faith, ever on pilgrimage looking forward to and living for that which eyes cannot see, that which ears have never heard before, that of which the tongue of man may never tell the whole.  Moreover, this new People of God, the house of Jesus, is pledged to obey a teaching foreshadowed, and indeed prepared for, by the Law given to Moses on Mount Sinai, but now become a law, not of letters inscribed on stone tablets, but of grace poured into men’s hearts by the Spirit of Jesus and Gift of God, that they might respond to God as He wills: in Spirit and in Truth.  And finally, the covenant of hope in the line of David is most sublimely fulfilled in Jesus, the Son of God made flesh, the promised Messiah become our Saviour and Leader, and Who, by His Death and Resurrection, is able and desires to make of us a chosen nation, a royal priesthood, called to sing more beautiful praises of God than king David and all the Psalmists could ever bring forth.  This covenant of Jesus is a covenant of fulfilling love, enabling the Kingdom of God to begin even here on earth by beams of heaven’s merciful glory being reflected back in humble and total love for God by disciples of Jesus and members of His Mystical Body.
After John (the Baptist) had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfilment.  The Kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the Gospel.’
How wise is our God!  How beautiful is the revelation which Jesus -- originally in His own preaching and now through His Spirit -- makes known to us in Mother Church and from the Scriptures!  Cleansing water bestowing new supernatural life called to set out on a pilgrimage from earthly sin and death to eternal joy and divine fulfilment; a pilgrimage along a way not of our own choosing or any merely human imagining, but one marked out for us by the teaching of God’s beloved Son Who – by His own Most Holy Spirit in Mother Church – both calls and enables us to follow Him along His way. 
However, dear brothers and sister in Christ, we must never forget that before Jesus proclaimed His Good News in Israel, before He set about healing the sick, enabling the blind to see, the lame to walk and the dumb to speak, He was first of all led out into the desert -- the devil’s homeland, so to speak -- to fight personally against the power and cunning of Satan.    Why?   Because Satan could not deceive Jesus!
Whereas the multitude of men are largely unaware of Satan’s presence and work in their individual lives and in society, in the case of this man Jesus, Satan was unable so to disguise and hide himself as to be able to stealthily worm his way into Jesus’ human psyche and gradually corrupt before ultimately destroying Him at his own ‘leisure’, pleasure, and will.  Satan was obliged therefore -- even though most reluctantly, for he knew there was something disturbing about Jesus’ ordinary appearance -- to try to overcome Him in a direct confrontation where and when he, Satan, was at his strongest, and Jesus, after His forty-day’s fast, would presumably be at His weakest.
Therefore, we, His disciples who aspire to further the mission of Jesus in our world today must first of all -- under the guidance of the Gospel and in the power of the Spirit -- enter into serious combat against our own personal sinfulness by sincere repentance, a repentance not merely to be pronounced by formulaic words but deeply experienced by a ‘humbled and contrite’ heart.
Have you ever read of, heard of, perhaps even experienced, true, self-sacrificing, love or heroism; have you ever listened to music or read poetry, seen landscapes or looked at paintings, of such beauty that afterwards – even though only momentarily – you most deeply, and even painfully, felt unable to ignore a humbling awareness of your own emptiness and pettiness, your own lack of love, innocence, and true worth?  Well, that is some slight, vague, but nevertheless true, likeness of repentance before God; repentance before a glimpse of God seen in the Person of Jesus and heard in His Gospel of salvation:
The Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from God (John 16:27);
a glimpse of God observed in the wonder and beauty of His Creation, and in a whisper -- barely heard in your heart of hearts – yet known as coming from Him Who is our true and only Father, calling you secretly and most persuasively to become a child of His now in the Jesus He sent for our salvation, and ultimately a member of His heavenly family by His Spirit of Love.
Let us all, therefore, try to follow Jesus in this Lenten season by making serious efforts both to resist, and – in God’s great goodness -- to overcome, sin in our lives, the only sure sign of love for God on earth, and the unshakeable pledge of eternal salvation thanks to the saving Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, 9 February 2018

6th Sunday of Year (B) 2018

 6th. Sunday of Year (B)               (Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46; 1st. Corinthians 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45)

In the first reading we heard that, in Jewish society of Gospel times, anyone who had been pronounced ‘unclean’ by an officially appointed priest because of a manifest skin disease, was obliged to separate himself or herself from society and live apart: alone, that is, or with other similarly diseased and therefore ‘unclean’ people:

As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean, since he is in fact unclean.  He shall dwell apart; making his abode outside the camp.

Moreover, in order to prevent contact with ordinary members of society who were clear of leprosy:

The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall keep his garments rent and his head bare, and shall muffle his beard; he shall cry out, 'Unclean, unclean!'

As a result, a leprous person was -- in the popular estimation -- as good as dead so far as normal society and normal human contacts were concerned.
Now this law of exclusion embodies a divine principle, both Jewish and Christian, whereby the good of the whole transcends that of the individual, and the individual good should be conducive to the good of the whole.  This was one of the guiding lights for St. Paul throughout his missionary labours, as we heard in the second reading:

I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit, but that of the many, that they may be saved.

For many of our contemporaries, however, this principle is neither clearly understandable nor readily acceptable; consequently, although as a divine principle it is for the common good, nevertheless, today, it is mainly religious bodies who alone have sufficient conviction to resist prevalent western hedonistic tendencies and doctrines, such as abortion, and homosexuality when accepted and presented as an alternative life style to that of heterosexual love and marriage.  Heterosexual love in marriage is the bedrock of human society, fulfilling the spouses and serving the whole human race through the children they raise as a wholesome family.  Homosexuality, on the other hand, when practised as an optional and sexual life style -- as distinct from being personally recognised and accepted as a preferred emotional, but non-sexual, relationship (as was the case with David and Jonathon in the Old Testament) -- satisfies only the passions of the individuals concerned at the expense of society which is thereby debilitated and frustrated, as modern experience in this country and abroad shows.

The rabbis considered the cleansing of one suffering from leprosy to be as impossible as raising the dead, and a story we are told concerning Elijah in the second book of the Kings (5:6-7) shows how clearly Israel and the ancient world recognized that none but divine power could cure it:

Naaman brought (a) letter (from the king of Syria) to the king of Israel, which said, ‘Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy’.  And it happened, when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy? Therefore, please consider and see how he seeks a quarrel with me.’

Now, St. Mark in our Gospel reading told us that:

A leper came to Jesus, and kneeling down begged Him and said, "If You wish, You can make me clean."  Moved with pity, He stretched out His hand, touched him, and said to him, "I do will it.  Be made clean."

Here we can recognise the faith which sustained the leper; for, risking public disapproval and official punishment, he sought Jesus out and, with humble confidence and faith, cried: ‘If You wish, You can make me clean’.  In response, Jesus -- powerful in word and deed -- reached out and, touching the man, said “I do will it”, whereupon the man was completely cleansed of his leprosy.  Learning from that short Gospel incident we can, in a certain measure, take to ourselves those words of the letter to the Hebrews (11:3):

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.

For, that creative word of Jesus is expressive of the very essence of God, and it helps us  understand why, in Mother Church, we have sacraments given us by Our Lord, the Word of God made flesh, consisting of words and specific actions -- symbolic of divine grace and human agency – reminiscent of Jesus healing the leper by His divine word of power whilst at the same time stretching out His human hand to physically touch him.

If we continue to look more closely at Jesus, trying to understand and learn from His human attitude, it can be of much help and might save us from many errors.

Warning him sternly, Jesus dismissed him at once, and said to him: See that you tell no one anything; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.

According to the Torah -- the God-given law binding all practising Jews -- anyone affected by leprosy was, as you have heard, to be pronounced unclean by a priest and banished from society.  Likewise, on being healed (should that ever occur), such a person would then have to present himself again before a priest in order to be officially recognised and pronounced clean, whereupon he or she would be authorized to come back into human society.  Therefore, as you heard, Jesus told the man He had healed to go to a priest, adding that such an action would “be proof for them”; that is, it would testify to the priests that Jesus had both respect for the Law and for their official authority, whilst, at the same time, it would bring to their attention the fact that here was Someone Who, by His very word, could cure leprosy; cure, that is, what for centuries had been recognised as incurable by mere men.

However, as you heard:

The man went away and began to publicise the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

Jesus told him to keep quiet about the cure and the man began to talk freely about it. Since it was a matter of his own personal health being restored and his own great distress relieved, one can easily think up excuses for him; but, in fact, his publicising of the cure made things much more difficult for Jesus, because it meant that:

It was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places.

Before this incident the leper had been obliged to remained in deserted places outside ordinary villages, towns and cities, Jesus had cured him and now the former leper was free to mingle with men while Jesus had apparently taken the man’s leprosy upon Himself being unable continue His saving mission in the towns and villages of that area.

That incident is again a helpful insight for us in our understanding of Our Blessed Lord Who later on, dear People of God, would even become ‘sin’ and ‘a curse’ for our sakes!!

For He (God) made Him Who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.   (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’).    (Galatians 3:13)

Jesus had come to cure the whole of Israel -- and ultimately the whole of mankind -- from the supreme uncleanness of sin, but the cleansed leper was only able to think of his own case.  Jesus had cured him, he must talk of what had happened to himself; and, as a result of such forbidden praise of his Healer, Jesus, we are told, found it:
 Impossible to enter a town openly.

Of course, people today like to think that because the man was obviously so grateful to Jesus, so happy in his new-found health, he is therefore not to be blamed.  But in fact, although that man’s ignorance of Jesus’ overall purpose is perfectly understandable and blameless, the fact that He ignored Jesus’ express command to ‘keep quiet’ turned out to be not only reprehensible for him personally, but positively damaging for others. because He -- the Healer, the Master -- was no longer able to continue His healing, saving, mission in that vicinity.

What unknown harm, People of God, do our sins, our failures to obey the Lord’s commands in our lives, cause for others in need of God’s saving help and strength?

At this point we should call to mind Our Blessed Lord’s words which explain His own Personal attitude in all such matters of obedience, an attitude that would lead Him to embrace death out of loving obedience to His Father and for our salvation (John 12:50):

I know that His (My Father’s) commandment is eternal life!
People of God, Jesus came to take away the sins of the world, and our personal needs and desires are but miniscule elements, however important to us, in God’s overarching purpose, and they must, therefore, be subject to its requirements.  It is so easy for us to be totally unaware of, and more or less indifferent to, the needs of mankind as a whole when our own personal needs are pressing upon us; and yet none of us can find fulfilment and happiness apart from our integration into the well-being of the whole body of our brethren.
As in the case of today’s cured-leper, often enough in the lives of the faithful, individuals can rise to occasional situations that seem to evoke from them memorable actions and/or words which are subsequently seen as worthy of praise and admiration by others; but the steadfast and almost unnoticeable-to-men obedience which God wants above all, calls for a moral strength, a humble selflessness, and a devout faith of a much superior order, which, far from meeting with human praise and approval, often enough leads to remarks such as ‘how boring your life must be’ or ‘I would find such a life terribly frustrating’; and such attitudes from those around can all too often lead Catholics and Christians as yet only learning to become true disciples of Jesus to feel themselves to be nobodies, only asked for simple prayers, only capable of a modicum of ordinary and very routine sacrifices ….  and how the imaginations of modern life-seekers, and alas, even some modern God-seekers, want to fly higher than that! 

Because we are too self-centred, we therefore need to constantly remind ourselves that none can cure mankind’s  malady of sin but Jesus the Christ, sent by God His Father for that specific purpose, Who is ceaselessly at work by His Spirit in and through His Church; and if we want to be His co-workers, become faithful instruments to bring about His purposes, we have to cease thinking about, seeking for, some niche that might be rich in acclaim for ourselves, and resolutely seek only His glory, await patiently His will, proclaim always His goodness.

Our modern Western society is so ostentatiously committed to human rights -- the rights of the individual -- that the good of the whole is easily overlooked; and the result of this is that individuals can become in some measure out of control, to the detriment of both the security and the cohesion of society as a whole.  This is the case because individual rights are only valid to the extent that they are conducive to the well-being of the whole of society, and the validity of this principle is being vindicated in our day by the fact that now, at last, the evil of abortion is becoming manifest to all as the European birth rate is unable to support the continuing viability of its member nations: several of which are dying out, dying on their feet, so to speak.   Again, lack of discipline in our schools -- due in no small degree to the slavish application of what are thought to be human rights for children who are as yet unable to appreciate that rights and duties are inevitably co-related -- is leading to an educational and social crisis, because any educational system that is not able to teach its children and students self-control and personal responsibility by the imposition of recognized and necessary discipline cannot produce true citizens.  Indeed, such a system is liable to turn out a number of young adults who are a potential danger to their neighbours and to society as a whole, because their emotions are not sufficiently subject to control, and the only rights they are aware of are their own ‘personal’ rights, rights which -- they like to think -- should in no way be restricted or overruled by any ‘supposed rights’ of the larger body of society. 

In His time Jesus was regarded as a rebel because He was never intimidated by the expectations of contemporary popular thinking nor by the pressures of self-serving officialdom; and we, as His disciples, should likewise practice independence from the pagan attitudes of people around us whilst maintaining, with Him, a right humility before lawful authorities established for the good governance of society.  Throughout His life Jesus recognized His Father as the exclusive ruler over all the decisive events of His life on earth, as the only guide for all His Personal attitudes, and as the supreme goal for all His Personal actions and decisions.  And so for us, the good of the individual, though necessary for the good of the whole, is nevertheless subordinate to that good of the whole, a subordination that is not always recognized or proclaimed by modern society. And that balanced good is an integral and necessary part of the true and ultimate good prescribed and wanted by God the Father and proclaimed by Our Lord Jesus Christ; a good that we, as living members of His Body, have to seek, work and pray for, in the power and under the inspiration of His most Holy Spirit. 

Friday, 2 February 2018

5th Sunday of Year (B) 2018

                                5th Sunday Year (B)                  (Job 7:1-4, 6-7; 1st. Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; Mark 1:29-39)

Simon and his companions searched for Jesus and when they found Him, they said to Him:

“Everyone is looking for you.”  He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”

We can appreciate from that passage of the Gospel that Jesus considered His preaching to be of supreme importance; and that most probably led that great apostle of Jesus, St. Paul, to make this otherwise surprising declaration in his first letter to the Corinthians:

          Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel. (1:17)

Throughout His public ministry Jesus’ preaching was a cause of astonishment to those who heard Him.  They reacted in this way both because of the content of His preaching -- many, for example, would say after hearing Him:

          Where did this man get this wisdom? (Matthew 13:54),

and also, because of the manner in which He spoke, as you heard in last week’s Gospel passage:

The people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.

Now, this was not just the reaction of simple people perhaps too prone to religious excitement, it was also the response of rough soldiers notoriously untouched by any such religious sensitivities, as St. John tells us in his Gospel (7:46):

          The officers answered, "Never has a man spoken the way this Man speaks.”

Indeed, St. Mark tells us (11:18), that the religious authorities themselves -- those highly intelligent and determinedly dangerous enemies of Jesus -- had a like appreciation of His preaching and Person:

The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.
When the scribes -- learned in the Law and in the Jewish oral tradition -- addressed the people, they frequently did little more than string together a series of quotes, centring on some brief passage of the Torah -- taking them from earlier authorities or currently well-known and influential teachers -- without themselves making any personal statements or commitment.

With Jesus, however, it was quite different: He might, indeed, quote on occasion, but only from the Scriptures;  other than that, He might proffer His own observations on everyday events and occurrences of human life, or make Personal references to the wonder and beauty of the natural world around, before finally -- by the fullness of the Spirit that was in Him -- delivering a teaching uniquely based on His own Personal authority, that was both sublimely expressive of God’s presence and purpose in the Scriptures, and yet most harmoniously in tune with nature, and with the experiences, expectations,  and aspirations of ordinary men and women.

His was, indeed, an absolutely unique authority on, and interpreter of, divine realities, as both St. John (3:11-13) and St. Matthew (11:27) tell us:

Truly, truly, I say to you, We speak of what We know and testify of what We have seen, and you do not accept Our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He Who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.

All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 

Now, St. Paul, by virtue of his God-given vocation as Doctor of the Nations, recognized and appreciated the absolute necessity of this aspect of Jesus’ teaching, as we can tell from the advice he gave to Titus, an early convert of his whom he later established as head of the church in Crete:

Say these things.  Exhort and correct with all authority. Let no one look down on you. (Titus 2:15)

Today, the proclamation of the Gospel, by public preaching and personal witness, is absolutely essential for Mother Church, and it must be authoritative.  And for us, the authority so desirable in Mother Church’s preaching and her witness of authentic Catholic and Christian living can only come from faith: a faith gratefully received, wholeheartedly believed, and so deeply loved and revered that it has to be handed on to subsequent generations in the fulness of its wondrous beauty and divine truth.

Such authority in our Catholic proclamation and Christian living cannot come from some stirred-up, emotionally contrived, assurance of personal inspiration which ultimately only seeks to promote self; it must come from a total commitment to what transcends our own self and what, nevertheless, is essentially part of, and indeed the only key to, our deepest self.  This total commitment to the God proclaimed by our faith can only come when we realize that our duty as Catholics and Christians is to know God:

They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)

This knowledge is not just the awareness of some facts about God, of the Scriptures, or about the Church; it must be a deeply personal appreciation of God Himself, as manifested to us in the Person of Jesus Christ, and witnessed by Jesus’ revelation of the Father and His Gift of the Holy Spirit in Mother Church.  This is a knowledge that can only be received by those who consistently and perseveringly seek to follow their Lord’s own example of commitment and love in His constant communing with His Father in prayer:

Rising very early before dawn, He left and went off to a deserted place, where He prayed.
It is the lack of such loving knowledge and appreciation of, communion with and whole-hearted response to, the Personal God Who deigns to dwell within His faithful servants, that bedevils the proclamation and the witness of Catholics and Christians today.  In the book of Hosea (4:6; 6:6) we are told:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest.

I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

The world’s ‘religion’ today is above all a proclamation of self-sufficiency and mutual self- approbation: ‘we can do holy things of ourselves without any God’.  Because God is rejected as not-necessary, there is no authority able to give peace, strength, and coherence to our experience of life: the laws that would govern the nations all too often give expression to the lies and deceits of corrosive self-interest; the law that would govern our own society is, at the best, only a series ‘ad hoc’ solutions quite unable to cure the root ills of an irreligious, no longer God-fearing, nation; and for an ever growing number of individuals there is no rudder to guide and govern their personal lives: only the  compulsive pressures of profit, the personal passions of pleasure, and social aspirations for power and popularity.  This inevitably leads to an experience, though not to an appreciation, of those words of Job:

My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and come to an end without hope.

However, let us, People of God, take to heart the words of the prophets Hosea and Isaiah:

He will raise us up on the third day that we may live before Him; so, let us know, let us press on to know, the LORD. (Hosea 6:2-3)

They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)

And above all, of course, we should learn from Our Blessed Lord Himself Who shows with supreme clarity the vital importance of holy knowledge, the source of our redemption, salvation, and glory:

Just as the Father knows Me, I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. (John 10:15)

The Son of God knew His Father’s great goodness, and His love for what He had originally formed in Their own likeness, and, out of such knowledge of and love for His Father, the Son had willed to become Jesus our Saviour.

You (Samaritans) worship what you do not know; we (Jews) worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.   (John 4:22)

Salvation is from the Jews Jesus proudly says, because they know what they worship.

Now this is eternal life, that they should know You the only true God, and the One Whom You sent, Jesus Christ.  (John 17:3)

But I do know Him (God) and I keep His word. (John 8:55)

True knowledge of God distinguished Jesus from all those Jews of the ‘establishment’ so opposed to Him, and that true knowledge meant that He ‘kept God’s word’ in all its authentic fulness.

Dear People of God, let us pray that our Blessed Lord and Saviour may give authentic authority – the authority of holy knowledge of God and His will -- to both the preaching and the witness of Mother Church and us, her children, in our troubled world of today.